BASEBALL TO VOTE ON INTERLEAGUE PLAY TODAY?
MLB's top officials -- including acting Commissioner Bud
Selig, NL President Leonard Coleman and AL President Gene Budig -
- said they expect owners to vote today on a proposal to begin
interleague play in '97. According to Mark Maske of the
WASHINGTON POST, "The measure almost certainly will pass if it's
voted upon, for little opposition has mounted to it during the
owners' quarterly meetings here" (WASHINGTON POST, 1/18). Other
reports note that while interleague play may be popular, the
subsequent need to re-examine the DH rule could cause
complications -- particularly with the union. Last night, ESPN's
Peter Gammons said he believes a vote will be tabled today.
Gammons: "The point is maybe they should work the deal out with
the union, get an agreement there, and then just make it official
-- rather than make it official and then have to barter with the
union" ("SportsCenter," 1/17). Red Sox CEO John Harrington is
expected to introduce the proposal to try it for one year "and
see how it goes." Harrington, Phillies President Bill Giles and
Astros Owner Drayton McLane -- the major proponents of
interleague play -- "appear to have the necessary votes" (Alan
Truex, HOUSTON CHRONICLE, 1/18).
THE GREAT DH DEBATE: In New York, Murray Chass writes that
the DH issue "threatened ... to undermine the revolutionary
concept before it can be implemented." One possible scenario:
the union could propose adding the DH to the NL, instead of
dropping it from the AL -- most likely causing NL owners to turn
against interleague play. MLBPA Assoc General Counsel Gene Orza:
"Why is the elimination of the DH the proposed solution rather
than the expansion of the DH?" Chass notes, while no one in
management would admit to it, "the desire to eliminate the [DH]
is more an economic issue than one of sanctity of the nine-man
lineup" (N.Y. TIMES, 1/18). In Baltimore, Peter Schmuck also
notes the possibility of the union using interleague play as a
"catalyst for the expansion of the DH rule" -- although the
current state of labor relations means "it probably won't come to
that" (Baltimore SUN, 1/18). In Atlanta, I.J. Rosenberg notes
the average salary for 10 regular DHs in the AL was $3,458,573 in
'95 (ATLANTA CONSTITUTION, 1/18).
NEWS & VIEWS: Gammons: "I think one of the things baseball
people have come to realize is that baseball is not simply a part
of some historic trust, it's part of an entertainment industry"
("SportsCenter," ESPN, 1/17). CBS' Dan Rather mentioned the
expected approval of interleague play, saying it will be accepted
because of "a concern over falling attendance" ("CBS Evening
News," 1/17). In Philly, Bill Lyon writes, "Baseball desperately
needs to do whatever will bring back the fans, whatever will
broaden and deepen interest. Interleague play is so obvious"
(PHILA. INQUIRER, 1/18). The Rangers (who would play the NL
West) oppose interleague play because of added travel and an
increased number of late-night games (FT. WORTH STAR-TELEGRAM,
1/18). TV SITUATION: Despite an offer from Time Warner Sports
President Seth Abraham to have interleague games carried on HBO,
Bill Giles, head of MLB's TV Committee, said the networks that
have regular-season TV rights under the new deal -- Fox, ESPN and
Fox/Liberty cable -- will carry the interleague games (Rudy
Martzke, USA TODAY, 1/18).
RELATED ISSUES: One "frequently discussed scenario" cited
in the ST. PETE TIMES has the Devil Rays in the AL East and the
Diamondbacks in the NL West. D'Backs Managing General Partner
Jerry Colangelo: "I've been told by enough people that if
interleague play is approved they will probably go 15 and 15.
And if it goes that way, we're in the NL" (Marc Topkin, ST. PETE
TIMES, 1/18). Naimoli told the TAMPA TRIBUNE he feels they will
end up in the AL East, even though it would mean a "double
switch" of teams in the other divisions (Bill Chastain, TAMPA